Lee's boys - the next generation
WANDERERS under-18s coach David Lee heads into his side’s first match today plotting a repeat of last season’s success at Youth level.
A fruitful 2012/13 campaign saw the young Whites reach the quarter-finals of the FA Youth Cup and also perform well in the Premier League Under-18s Elite Group.
But more importantly for Lee and his fellow coach Tony Kelly, they saw several players move up to the development squad and into first-team training and the aim is to mirror that this season.
Lee told The Bolton News: “It’s a new season and a new challenge but one which we are all looking forward to.
“We have 10 first years moving up from the under-16s and some have been involved last season.
“That will help with the transition for them.
“We still have second years who were in the squad last season – the likes of Elliot Newby, Tom Walker, Jordan Hendrie, Liam Gibson, Rob Holding – and that is a plus point.
“It is all about development and it is great that we have had players like Tom Youngs, Zach Clough and Chris Lester move up to the U21s and to be with the first-team.
“The manager is a big advocate of youth and is true to his word in that if a player is good enough, they will get a chance to impress.
“The infrastructure at the club is good in that sense and it is an incentive to all young players that they can progress at Bolton Wanderers.”
Lee and Kelly’s youngsters have been back in training since late June and played friendly matches against Wigan, Rochdale and Bury.
Last weekend they rounded off pre-season competing in a tournament in the Netherlands.
But that keenly contested competition provided more negatives than positives with a handful of players returning injured.
Lee added: “The physicality of the games was strong and unfortunately we picked up several injuries and long-term ones in some cases.
“The worst for us was a leg fracture for Saul Hamer which is a blow for the lad.
“It means we will be without some of the squad for up to five weeks and that is the downside of pre-season when you want matches but hope to avoid any injuries.”
The rest of the squad head to Reading tomorrow for the first league clash – a side that pipped them to top spot in the first group phase last season but one they also beat during the FA Youth Cup run.
Lee rates them highly and is expecting another tough test in Berkshire.
He added: “Reading are probably the benchmark for a lot of teams at this level and what we are trying to attain to.
“They have always had a good set-up and while they will have different players, they will still be a tough nut to crack who will be in and around the top teams again.
“It is a new set-up this season where we play local teams home and away but the others, like Reading, on a two-year cycle so have less travelling which is a wise move in my opinion.”